Archive for the 'President Obama' Category

Shakespeare Anagram: Twelfth Night

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Let’s call it the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and President Hyde.

It all started last weekend, when a coalition of white supremacist organizations staged a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. The idea was that the different alt-right factions, including the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, could come together and present a unified front for nationalism and racial purity. With swastika flags, burning torches, and chants such as “Jews will not replace us,” they presented an unambiguous message of anger and hate. Counter-protesters showed up to resist their message, and one particularly disturbed individual drove his car into them, injuring many, and killing Heather Heyer, age 32.

Before we go on, it should be clear that this is not in any way a left vs. right thing. This has nothing to do with Republican or Democratic ideology. Everyone in America should be against this, regardless of how you feel about the tax code or health care reform. And indeed, many prominent Republicans immediately spoke out against this protest and its message of hate. We should expect no less.

But on Saturday, as the events were still unfolding, President Trump came out to read a prepared statement, in which he stated that “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.” He then stopped reading, looked up, and added “on many sides… on many sides.”

Deflection is a common rhetorical technique, used by politicians and their supporters, mainly when they are losing the argument and want to shift the focus of the conversation. Push a Trump supporter (or President Trump himself) too far, and you’ll get an earful of Benghazi or Hillary’s e-mails. And, yes, we do it too when our back is against the wall. (Sure, Obama used drones, but Bush did it too!)

So there’s nothing unusual about deflection, and it’s easy to call it out when it happens. But why on earth would President Trump use such a technique, or any technique at all, to defend the white supremacists? Sure, you can use deflection to shift focus onto the counter-protesters if you want to. But why? It only makes sense if you see the alt-right as “your side.” Is that what the President was signaling?

Needless to say, many were left feeling unsatisfied with this statement on Saturday. Pushback against his comments became so ubiquitous that he was forced to issue another statement last Monday. This time, he said all of the things a President is supposed to say, decrying racism as evil, and naming the various hate groups as well as the name of the woman who died in the protest. Some said he looked like a hostage being forced to read a statement against his will. Others criticized him for not speaking out sooner. But he said everything we asked him to say, and if he had left it there, the issue would have been closed.

He did not leave it there.

The next day, he was making an announcement about infrastructure. But when he took questions, they were not about infrastructure. This time, the President, finally freed from the oppressive shackles of prepared statements written by his more thoughtful policy advisors, doubled down on his deflection away from the white supremacists. He never explicitly said both sides were equally to blame, but that seemed to be his attitude. He coined the term “alt-left” as though people who want to raise the minimum wage and implement a single-payer healthcare system were on the same moral plane as Nazis. He also implied that it was the counter-protestors who were physically attacking the alt-right, when all of the evidence I’ve seen is to the contrary. He also felt the need to point out that the white supremacists had a permit, while the counter-protesters did not. (Seriously, he said that.) This was a new low for the Trump presidency, and that’s no easy bar to clear.

But then, this past Monday, he gave an address laying out a foreboding agenda in Afghanistan. Content aside, he was calmly reading from the teleprompter, just like a real big-boy president. He was measured, dignified, and – dare I say it – uncharacteristically presidential. He began with an eloquent call for unity against division. Had he not already relinquished all moral authority to make such a statement, it would have been beautiful. And when he talked about Afghanistan, he projected strength and resolve. There was the occasional reference to the previous administration’s blame and more than a little unearned braggadocio, but he didn’t trip over the podium or light himself on fire, and I caught myself hoping to see more of this president moving forward.

It took exactly one day to burst that bubble. At a campaign rally (!) in Arizona on Tuesday, he gave a completely unhinged performance, telling an alternate-universe version of the story above, and attacking the media as fake news outlets out to get him personally.

At the moment, it feels like we have two presidents, and when he speaks, we don’t know which one we’re going to get. But let’s not be under any illusions about which one is the @realDonaldTrump.

From Twelfth Night:

One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons;
A natural perspective, that is, and is not!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

I see two presidents: one, a non-factual peevish scab; another can pivot, read notation.

Shakespeare Anagram: Troilus and Cressida

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

This week, President Trump announced that he is withdrawing us from the Paris Climate Accord.

Now, in all likelihood, Trump is using this as a starting position for a renegotiation. That doesn’t mean we won’t actually pull out of the accord, as it seems unlikely such a renegotiation will be possible.

What this is really about is President Trump trying to show up President Obama. In his mind, he’s the greatest negotiator who ever lived. In reality, how good is he? He couldn’t even talk Republicans into repealing Obamacare.

What’s really scary about this is that, despite the unprecedented international coordination that went into making the deal, experts agree that it didn’t go nearly far enough to slow down the warming of the planet. Further action will still be needed, and that is going to be extremely difficult politically.

But what we definitely don’t want to do is move in the opposite direction, which is what this president is threatening to do. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to undo the damage that is done, and future generations may just look that this as the moment when we passed the point of no return.

Anyway, enjoy the anagram.

From Troilus and Cressida:

Paris is dirt to him.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Idiot rips; it harms.

An Open Letter to President Trump

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

President Trump, I want to start by being straight with you. I didn’t vote for you, and was not happy to see you win. But I do acknowledge that you won fair and square, and that you are the legitimate president. And I really do want America to win on your watch, so we’re on the same team now. And that’s why I want to tell you how you can go down in history as the greatest president that anyone has ever seen. A lot of people tell me that you have a very good brain, so I know you will see the wisdom in what I’m about to tell you. You, and you alone, can reform the healthcare system. Big League.

Recently, you observed that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” How true that is. Health care is complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. You have said you would replace ObamaCare with “something terrific.” You have promised your plan would “cover everybody.” That plan has a name, Mr. President. It’s called single payer.

This is something President Obama would have loved to have put his name on, but he couldn’t get it done. He couldn’t even get a public option passed, with both houses of Congress on his side. Hillary Clinton would have supported single payer, but she said in the Democratic primaries that she would not have fought for it. Bernie Sanders would have fought for it and lost. There is only one president who could make this happen, and he won the election. It’s President Donald J. Trump. You.

If you decided to come out in favor of single payer, your core supporters would rally around it. They’ve demonstrated many, many times that they don’t care about actual policy positions or traditional Republican values. They only care about winning. They’d do it just to help you embarrass President Obama. All you’d have to do is tweet “Obamacare is a total disaster! We need to repeal it IMMEDIATELY and replace it with single payer,” and you’d add 30% of the population to its support.

Liberals like me care more about policy than personality, that I can tell you. If you went for single payer, it would drive us crazy. We’d have to support you, or we’d be hypocrites forever. We’d have to talk about how President Trump saved the country. When you withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we filled Twitter with grudging praise for you. We couldn’t help it. If you did this, we’d be falling all over ourselves. It would be unbelievable. Liberals would be lining up for repeal and replace.

And when single payer did go into effect, it would be so beautiful. Everyone would be covered. Single payer will bring costs down, too. Politicians don’t understand how to do that. That’s why people voted for a smart businessman to run things for a while. You need to step in and show them. The American healthcare system would be so popular it would make your head spin. They’d call it TrumpCare and talk about how much better it was than loser ObamaCare. The question of who was the better president will have been settled once and for all. Who made single payer happen? It was President Trump.

And the best part is: you already favor this. We know you do. You couldn’t say so during the election. You had a primary to win. Everyone understands that. And pivoting in the general would have shown weakness. But you’re the president now, and you get to make the decisions based on what you believe, not what you might have said or not said while campaigning. As for the people who voted for you based on those positions, they will be the ones that will most benefit from single payer. Believe me. Some people will think it’s unfair that we have a program that helps Donald Trump’s supporters, but you represent the people, not the politicians.

Paul Ryan will be one of the people who will fight you on this. But Paul Ryan never supported you, even after you won the Republican primary. Quite frankly, he was rather disrespectful. I could say something right now, but I won’t. And Ryan is not alone. A lot of career politician Republicans won’t like this. But they are not the president. You are. And between your loyal supporters and the liberals who are already on board, the popular support for this bill will be tremendous. They won’t have any choice but to bend to your will.

That’s the respect you deserve to have, Mr. President. It’s time for you to take it.

Shakespeare Anagram: Othello

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

From Othello:

I have told thee often, and I re-tell thee again and again, I hate the Moor: my cause is hearted: thine hath no less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The lie: conservatives joining here don’t care about managing the health insurance fee. It’s an inane move to undo the last leader’s signature idea. They loathe him, eh?

Making History

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

A Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill into the Arkansas State Legislature to ban the works of Howard Zinn in school curricula and course materials. This is just the latest of a long string of incidents of conservatives trying to change how history is taught, sometimes successfully. In order to evaluate the potential impact of such efforts, we should take a moment to consider what we believe is the purpose of our emerging citizens studying history in school. Is it to teach them how to critically evaluate historical events so they can use that knowledge to interpret current events and build a better world? Or is to infuse them with a love of their country and a proud understanding of American exceptionalism? Both of those choices sound pretty good to me, but as they are often in conflict with one another, it is incumbent on us to choose only one of them as a touchstone for making decisions about curricula and instruction. And here we find the fundamental disagreement between the left and the right when it comes to teaching history.

Conservatives pride themselves as being free thinkers, but if you examine their ideology, you’ll find that a great deal of it is based in a slavish deference to authority. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. The framers wanted us to have unlimited access to guns. A cop shot a kid? The kid must have been asking for it. Always trust the invisible hand of the free market. Jesus, Take the Wheel. And so on. For the past eight years, this suspension of free will to the sovereign did not extend to our Democratic president, but in the past few months, conservatives have rediscovered their obedience to the chief executive. Under this ideology, we don’t want citizens to question the authority of the state; we just want them to love Big Brother. Lest you think I’m exaggerating out of some kind of misguided partisan zeal, I present this 2014 clip from Fox News about this same social studies debate, followed by a commentary by Gretchen Carlson where she clearly articulates this mindset:

If, as Phil Graham suggested, the news is the first draft of history, then Fox News is the first draft of Republican history. Carlson’s approach to teaching social studies mirrors pretty accurately the network’s approach to journalism. Facts take a backseat to spin, and point of view reigns supreme over truth. Check out this clip, also from 2014, about a then-new report on torture. Nobody in this clip denies the truth of the report; they just don’t think we should be talking about it. Andrea Tantaros is particularly bothered by the fact that the report highlights “how we’re not awesome.” Really:

The Republican sense of entitlement to create the news, as well as history, is nothing new. In a 2004 New York Times Magazine article, “Faith, Certainty, and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” Ron Suskind quotes an unnamed senior advisor to President Bush, now widely believed to be Karl Rove:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Remember how Republicans screamed about President Obama giving a back-to-school address to children? Yet, when they’re in power, they have no problem asserting the right to define reality like the most oppressive regimes around the world. President Trump started doing this right out of the gate. He reserves the right to tweet out some absurd nonsense – like the idea that millions of illegal voters came out to vote for Hillary Clinton, thus denying him the popular vote – and to demand that it be taken as unquestionable fact. Take a look at Sean Spicer’s first stint as White House Press Secretary, clearly sent out by the boss to insist that the inauguration attendance numbers were not what they were:

This explains why Republicans have such a terrible relationship with science. Science is all about asking questions and overthrowing the establishment when the facts justify it. We don’t believe in evolution and global climate change because they support our political interests; we believe in them because of the overwhelming evidence in their favor. The Republican power structure wants to dictate what’s true and what’s not. But science doesn’t work that way, and neither does history… unless we allow them to.

That’s why it’s so important to speak out now about the changes they want to make to the way history is taught in Arkansas, and around the country. Zinn would have been the first to admit that history has a point of view, and his history in particular. But nobody is questioning the validity of Zinn’s research, only the perspective he chooses to take. It doesn’t fit in with the conservative view of patriotism, which is an unwavering insistence on American superiority and infallibility. But I would argue that Zinn’s writings are very patriotic; he just chooses to celebrate a different aspect of American history. He highlights how groups of people have come together throughout history to resist the power structure and effect change. No wonder they want him banned.

It’s important for students to have exposure to the truths of American history, even the unpleasant ones. You can’t understand the facts about society today without an understanding of how we got here. You can’t have an opinion about Standing Rock without knowing about the genocide of the Native Americans and their subsequently troubled history. You can’t intelligently discuss Black Lives Matter without an understanding of slavery and the civil rights movement. You can’t truly contextualize the treatment of Muslims in America post-9/11 without an understanding of how the Japanese internment camps came about and were later judged. The most unpleasant moments of history turn out to be our most teachable moments. We can still love America, warts and all, by celebrating, as Zinn does, our potential for growth and change. What a low opinion of America it must take to believe that students won’t love it if they have all of the information. So when administration officials, such as Ben Carson or Betsy DeVos, make statements that demonstrate a shocking misunderstanding of American history, it may be less about their ignorance and more about their arrogance. But Anderson Cooper demonstrates the dangers of allowing conservatives to just make up the version of history they want to present:

I do realize that I’m taking a very partisan tone in an essay that’s supposed to be about how to best teach history. But I really do see this as a partisan battle, and even more so now that we have a president who not only creates his own reality space, but seems to be taking about a third of the country along with him. Teaching critical thinking in social studies has never been more important. Ignorance breeds hate, and hate is a powerful weapon in dividing us. One side is trying to start a dialogue; the other side is trying to shut it down. We have to teach students how to question authority, how to find credible information about the issues, and how to make their voices heard in a way that matters. This does not mean liberal indoctrination. I’m perfectly happy to support my students in researching and debating the conservative side of the issues. Reasonable people can disagree, and classroom debates should mirror the real discussions happening across the country. But if your opinions aren’t informed by historical perspective and you only react based on your emotions and prejudices, then I’m not really all that interested in debating you.

Without a clear understanding of the past, you cannot fully comprehend the present or work to build a better future.

Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VI, Part One

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Now, President Trump is making baseless claims via Twitter about President Obama wiretapping his phones during the election. This is just completely unhinged. And I continue to anagram as Rome burns…

From Henry VI, Part One:

Becomes it thee to taunt his valiant age
And twit with cowardice a man half dead?

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Aw, fanatical DT tweets again – without hard evidence – Obama listened to him chat.

Ten Years

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Ten years ago today, I started a journey called “Shakespeare Teacher” that hoped to entertain, enlighten, and energize a small but dedicated audience of readers.

The world was different back then. George W. Bush was in the White House, and my dissatisfaction with that reality drove a lot of my early posts. I found myself with a lot to say, and Web 2.0 offered a unique platform to express my opinions and offer my analysis. When Barack Obama took office, I still cared about politics, but my edge became dulled by complacency.

I mostly sat out this past election because it was awful and because I thought Donald Trump could not possibly win. That was a mistake. Now, I find myself once again with a lot to say, but my platform for saying it is no longer what is was. Web 2.0 technologies have taken a backseat to social media, and most of us get our news and analysis folded in with our baby pictures and viral videos. Is there still a place for the Shakespeare Teacher and his twopence? I’m thinking that there just may be, if I can play to my strengths.

I’ve become very aware of the way that language is being twisted and manipulated in politics and society, and I can write about that. New policies will affect education and the arts, and I can write about that. We will see parallels between real life as it emerges and Shakespeare’s examinations of power, and I can write about that. And, of course, I can still entertain with the word games, puzzles, riddles, and anagrams that have come to define this tiny little corner of the Internet for the past decade. I might even write about teaching Shakespeare from time to time.

The Shakespeare Teacher is back. If you’re in, I’m in.

Happy New Year.

Shakespeare Anagram: Julius Caesar

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

From Julius Caesar:

And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?
Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf,
But that he sees the Romans are but sheep:
He were no lion, were not Romans hinds.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Hot-headed Republicans, who re-won the Senate, loathe any intolerable snub from the enemy.

An unrepentant Obama shows the order, risks a shutdown.

Oh, wow.

Conundrum: An Eventful 52

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

The following recap of 2013 has been redacted by overzealous Internet censors! Can you fill in the blanks to restore our memories of the year?

Here’s the catch: all of the missing words are in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

Was it only 52 weeks __(01)__ that we celebrated the arrival of 2013? A lot has happened since then. __(02)__ __(03)__ was __(04)__ from the same network as Mr. __(05)__ later would be. The __(06)__ story of the past 365 days might be that terrible __(07)__ in __(08)__. The __(09)__ of a mayoral __(10)__ ended when he was revealed to be using the name __(11)__ __(12)__. This may have been the most __(13)__ incident of 2013, unless you wish to give that __(14)__ honor to the family of __(15)__ __(16)__, whose __(17)__ member __(18)__ many by __(19)__ his more __(20)__ views, which many felt went too __(21)__. At the movies, the latest __(22)__ & __(23)__ film had a __(24)__ showing at the box office, though it did not __(25)__ as much __(26)__ as the latest __(27)__ __(28)__ film. In music, the artist born __(29)__ __(30)__ released a second LP with that name. Internationally, __(31)__ __(32)__ was removed from power, while domestically, we fought __(33)__ over __(34)__, the __(35)__ signature __(36)__. The __(37)__ __(38)__ it fiercely, and the __(39)__ itself certainly had some __(40)__ spots. In fact, the worst __(41)__ of 2013 may have been the __(42)__ it triggered, though just as __(43)__ was when Mr. __(44)__ __(45)__ out about the government’s __(46)__ on Americans as part of a secret __(47)__ program. In sports, we once again saw that nobody could __(48)__ from the __(49)__ like __(50)__ __(51)__. All in all, it was an eventful __(52)__.

Shakespeare Anagram: Twelfth Night

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

From Twelfth Night:

What great ones do the less will prattle of

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Was a selfie wrong? That protest led to hell.